Join Steve Newman as he goes rambling across Scotland and Ireland on a cruise and walk holiday
24th May 2018
I’m afraid we failed miserably at the quiz last night but the evening’s show in the theatre more than made up for it.
We also had our own ‘Ramblers Cocktail Party’ before supper with some lovely canapés.
This morning saw us dock alongside Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands with a very misty and overcast dawn greeting us. However this soon burned off to produce another glorious day with bright, blue skies.
A mini bus ride of some twenty minutes took us to the north of the Orkney mainland and we had the most fabulous six mile walk along the cliff tops southwards to Skara Brae.
The only problem we had was the strong southerly wind, which at times seemed to cut through us, but it produced the most spectacular site of the spray being thrown backwards off the Atlantic rollers as they thundered onto the shore.
The cliffs were covered with wonderful, colourful flowers and nesting sea birds such as fulmars and guillemots. Occasionally a great skua would appear out of nowhere and pounce on a bird to steal its fish.
Arriving at Skara Brae we were all looking forward to seeing this 5,000 year old settlement.
Reputed to be the best preserved Stone Age village in Europe the site sits proudly within the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Skara Brae is accorded the same status as the pyramids in Egypt.
However, the village is in fact much older, dating from 3200BC compared to 2700BC when the building of the pyramids began.
It is incredible how the comforts of modern life have changed so little from the past with beds, dressers and the other necessities of modern life still evident.
It’s off to Shetland tomorrow and I simply can’t wait.
23rd May 2018
Today was our first walking day and what a day it was. Stunning, clear blue skies and fabulous views everywhere you looked.
We left the ship at Invergordon at 8:30am and half an hour later we found ourselves at the bottom of the Forest Drive leading up to the Fyrish Monument some 2km ahead and 270 metres higher.
The monument was erected in 1782 by the local laird – an Old English term for the owner of a large estate – to give his workers some paid work at the time of famine and overlooks the Cromarty Firth. The walk was a pleasant one through ancient woodlands carpeted with sphagnum moss and bubbling streams crossed by narrow bridges.
As we got nearer the top, the hillside opened out to moorland and we had some truly fabulous views of the southernmost Cairngorms – which still had some snow on their peaks.
After consuming our excellent packed lunch, we visited the ancient Royal Burgh town of Tain with its 14th century church with stunning stained glass, some really wonderful Scottish Baronial-style buildings, museums and lovely tearooms scattered all over the place.
Although it was a fabulous day I was so glad to get back to the ship for a shower and a chilled glass of white wine.
It’s our own ‘Ramblers Cocktail Party’ tonight at 5:30pm followed by our evening meal. I might take in the show, but I’m all fired up for the quiz at 9:30pm in the Lido Bar!
22nd May 2018
We’ve had a day at sea today with a beautiful sunny morning. However, there was a very cold northerly wind on the sea as we made our way up the east coast of Britain towards Invergordon, where we are due to berth tomorrow at 6:30am.
There weren’t many people out doing the ‘walk a mile before breakfast’ and the Promenade Deck was virtually deserted although some brave souls were doing the ‘wake-up yoga’.
I joined the dedicated band of birders on the stern and we were rewarded with large numbers of gannets diving around the boat and fulmars soaring on our updraft. These birds are related to the Albatross and it showed as they hardly moved their wings at all.
Pam, our group leader, gave us a fascinating talk and briefing after breakfast in the bar with the lovely stained glass pictures of past Fred. Olsen ships in the background and we were left raring to get walking tomorrow.
This was followed by some excellent presentations in the ship’s theatre on our destinations with their history and culture being explained to us.
I’m having a go at the carpet bowls this afternoon and then going to a classical concert with the ship’s trio of violin, cello and flute.
Tonight it’s the Captain’s Welcome cocktail party and guess who’s forgotten to pack their bow tie?
21st May 2018
Here we are at Dover on board Fred Olsen’s Boudicca ready to depart on our ‘Cruise and Walk’ holiday with Ramblers Walking Holidays around Scotland and Ireland.
Upon boarding, I went to explore the ship’s library – it’s always a good idea to scope out the best books before your fellow passengers can get to them – only to find that the chocolate bar with an assortment of special teas is right next to it. Could be dangerous!
My cabin is light and airy and the beds are particularly comfortable.
There’s plenty of plugs for charging electrical gadgets and, for once, I remembered my two-pin plug adaptors!
Then it was off to a meeting/briefing in the Moonlight pub with the other 21 walkers were we quickly gelled – although a few glasses of wine probably helped!
Dinner was at 6:30pm and I have to say Fred’s cuisine is still top notch. I went for the house salad with garlic dressing, fettuccine with clams and the most wonderful orange tart with cream. Followed by some lovely dark, rich coffee.
Some of our party are going to watch the show tonight and tomorrow we have a full day at sea with presentation on our next two ports of call, Dublin and Tobermory, Mull.
There’s a comprehensive list of activities throughout the day from concerts to bridge and swimming classes.
My own day will start with the ‘walk a mile before breakfast’ (four times around the promenade deck) at 8am followed by breakfast, lunch from 12-2, afternoon tea and dinner at 6:30pm.
Cruising is so good for your waistline.
17th May 2018
Combining cruising with a walking holiday is becoming ever more popular. When the rest of the passengers go off on a coach trip to explore castles or museums, you can hop in a mini bus to wander the hills or hinterland of the port your ship docked in that morning.
Upon returning to the ship you have all the comforts that cruising provides in abundance (perfect for soothing those aching joints) and then come the next morning you’re off again walking from another port – maybe even in another country.
This is not the first time Steve has embarked upon a cruise and walking holiday. He took a similar trip with Fred. Olsen and Ramblers across Spain, France and Portugal. But how will the picturesque coastlines of the UK compare?
Yes, Steve will be exploring and walking the coastlines of Scotland and Ireland where he no doubt will be hoping this surprising spell of warm British weather continues, and you can read his daily blog here from Monday (21 May).